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Published on Friday, August 4, 2000 in the San Francisco Chronicle
There's Something About Mary Cheney.
She's Here, She's Queer
by Carla Marinucci
 
Philadelphia -- There's something about Mary.

And it's something the Republicans just don't want to talk about.

Mary is Mary Cheney, the 31-year-old daughter of GOP vice presidential nominee Dick Cheney.

She is a lesbian, and she hasn't kept it a secret -- either to her friends or to her employer, Coors Brewing Co., where she is the gay and lesbian corporate relations manager.

And Mary has been at the Republican convention, sitting next to mom Lynne Cheney in Philadelphia's First Union Center.

But as far as the GOP is concerned, the message has been clear.

No, we don't talk about Mary, and more important, we don't talk to Mary.

Mary has been given different treatment from that accorded George P. Bush, the nephew of presidential nominee George W. Bush. The GOP touts the sexy Latino appeal of ``P'' and revels in his nomination by People magazine as one of America's hottest bachelors. He's giving more interviews than Ricky Martin these days.

But as Mary Cheney told Time magazine in some of her few public words to date on the subject, ``I love my father. I don't want to be a distraction.''

That the GOP is determined she won't became clear when Lynne Cheney was asked about her daughter being openly gay by ABC newswoman Cokie Roberts on Sunday.

Mrs. Cheney said her daughter is ``bright'' and ``hard-working'' and ``decent,'' and yes, she loves her. But, she said acidly, ``My daughter has never declared such a thing.''

Pressure from the religious right on this issue already has surfaced. Jerry Falwell, in a newsletter issued before the convention, used the word ``errant'' to describe Mary Cheney.

GAY ACTIVISTS PROTEST

But the campaign's transformation of Mary Cheney into a nonperson has so incensed gay activists that they held a news conference yesterday, comparing Republicans' treatment of Mary to Ross Perot's ``crazy aunt in the attic.'' Trot her out to the window, so folks will know she's alive. But don't let them know what is really going on.

``People are curious to get to know her. But it seems to be that that has been shut down by the Bush campaign,'' said Elizabeth Birch of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay and lesbian advocacy group.

Birch said Americans often are willing to accept ``this notion of gay Americans working hard, being driven, being dynamic.'' But they draw the line when they ``bring their partner to the company picnic.''

``All his daughter's presence does is shine a light'' on such contradictions, said Birch.

She said she knows and deeply respects Mary Cheney and has worked with her in her role at Coors.

``She's someone any campaign would be proud of,'' she said. ``Mary was very open with me about her sexual orientation.'' But she notes it is not Mary Cheney's obligation to talk about that in public.

The real problem, Birch said, is Bush and Dick Cheney, the candidates.

``This highlights the fact that the American public does not know with a great deal of precision what their positions are on gay issues,'' she said.

FROM ALL SIDES

Mary Cheney is now officially a no-winner. She'll be criticized by some gay activists as an Uncle Tom if she doesn't speak out. She'll be lambasted by the Christian right if she does.

Already, the tug-of-war has started.

``I find it very strange, this state of denial,'' said Bob Mulholland, campaign coordinator for the California Democratic Party. ``It's like she's Charlie Manson . . . and I feel terrible for the daughter.''

Said Log Cabin Republicans member Frank Ricchiazzi, boasting how far his gay and lesbian conservative group has come since the ``vicious'' 1992 GOP convention in Houston: ``Eight years later, we have a Republican vice presidential nominee who has a gay daughter.''

There is something, indeed, about Mary.

And that is: In election 2000, both sides will want a piece of her.

2000 San Francisco Chronicle

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